By: Cheryl Thomas Orengo
“I have never felt so much joy and accomplishment in my life… and I am sure I won’t ever have that same overpowering feeling again,” Alice, a doula client, shared her feelings with us about the amazing day of her birth, which was the culmination of a two-day labor, which ebbed and flowed from Christmas Eve until the early morning of December 26th. “It was the most intense moment of my life. I will forever be grateful to my labor and birth team for such a wonderful experience. I felt completely supported and confident throughout the entire journey. I have such wonderful memories of the entire experience, even those times of uncertainty, because we were prepared and well-equipped to combat the challenges that mothers face in the labor and delivery room every day.”
Historically, laboring women received support from female companions. Women gathered around the laboring woman and provided support for her family and brought warm liquids, a soft touch or a hug for the laboring woman. They did not try to rescue her from the pain of childbirth because they knew that normal labor meant pain and intense work but at the end of labor came the joy of a new baby and a strong mother. More recently female support for normal birth has become the exception rather than the norm. Women wanting natural birth are concerned about the dehumanization of a woman’s birth experience because excessive medical procedures are often used during labor and birth throughout the US even with healthy women.
Doulas are available to help women and their partners create a special memory with a more normal and joyous birth. They are trained to help with special labor techniques and are knowledgeable of labor positions and comfort measures. The word doula is a Greek word, meaning “woman’s servant” and has become a familiar term for expectant couples. Many of the labor positions and comfort measures were conceived by Penny Simkin, a physical therapist, childbirth educator and doula who, with a study completed in 1991, discovered that if women are supported during childbirth they will experience a more positive birth experience. She created special methods to make labor easier and was a founder of DONA International, the premier doula organization.
Unfortunately, doulas provide support for only about 2% of births in our area. Most couples seeking a natural experience either prefer to work with labor and birth on their own or with the addition of family and friends. Wanting women to be able to look back on their birth experience with a positive memory and knowing that many couples wish to have a natural or normal labor and birth is why we decided to offer FREE Labor and Birth Forums to expectant couples in the Asheville area. The forums are held the last Thursday of each month in a lovely exercise/yoga room located in a one-story building adjacent to Mission Hospital.
Normal birth allows a woman to use her own resources to bring her child into the world; family and friends of the laboring woman as well as health professionals can shape a woman’s birth experience with feelings about herself, her birth and her part in it. We have all succeeded if women are able to verbalize a lovely memory of their labor and birth no matter how it takes place.
As a couple walks into the Birth Forum room on a Thursday night, they see chairs and large balls, often used for exercise, in a circle. There are tables around the room with brochures to help connect the couple to other local pregnancy/birth support services in the area. A doula/childbirth educator opens the forum leading everyone in a peaceful relaxation exercise designed to help attendees leave their busy day behind. After the opening everyone introduces themselves and with an agenda in hand the facilitors begin the discussion for the evening. Expectant parents, area doulas, nurses and other maternal health professionals join in to lend their own tips to those in attendance. The forum leaders guide the evenings so that participants take with them: knowledge, encouragement and confidence in the female body’s ability to give birth.
The labor and birth forums are based on the Six Care Practices for Normal and Healthy Birth by Lamaze International. The Lamaze method remembered by those of us in our 50’s and 60’s was a method that focused primarily on breathing techniques and information about labor. Today’s Lamaze promotes normal and healthy birth with labor positions and special comfort techniques to normalize labor from a belief that, “the experience of birth profoundly affects women and their families.”
The information presented during the forums includes typical doula methods to support natural birth. Some women have to have a medical induction because pregnancy is usually not allowed to exceed 41 weeks, so it is important to support a more normal birth even if a medical induction is necessary or there are labor or birth complications.
Medical interventions used during childbirth are procedures or treatments done to find, prevent or fix problems. All interventions have risks and many can make labor and birth more complicated. At the Labor and Birth Forums suggestions are made for effective communication with the woman’s medical caregiver about common interventions they may want to avoid and how to have a healthy and satisfying birth if medical procedures become necessary. Practice for this would include methods to relieve back pain, the use of a wireless monitor, and learning positions to encourage descent of the baby.
Comfort measures for pain are offered during the forums including practice of acupressure points to help labor begin and to help the release of endorphins, our body’s natural pain medication. Movement techniques such as swaying with the birth partner and different ways to move on a birth ball are offered to help an unborn baby descend. Comfort techniques such as squeezing the hips to reduce back pain and vocalization to ease the pain of late labor are taught to help contractions work more efficiently. Special positions are practiced to help labor progress such as a slow dancing movement with the father (or partner) and lunging to encourage a baby to descend into the pelvis to assist labor progress. Lack of labor progress is often a reason for cesarean surgery and pain and suffering are the primary reasons for the high use of epidurals.
The forums also promote active participation of the father, or partner, to provide continuous support to the laboring woman. Labor often surprises expectant couples with its power and strength. Fathers and partners are with a woman throughout labor, which can last for 12 to 25 hours or more for first babies. Studies show that women who have continuous support have fewer complications and report satisfaction with their childbirth experience. Taking a childbirth class series together and/or having a doula can help the birth partner provide even more effective support and can reduce the chances of a cesarean and/or the use of pitocin for induction or augmentation.
A lactation consultant who is part of the group, a soft-spoken young woman who has been working with new mothers for over a decade, brings up the topic of bonding with a newborn for the last care practice. “The healthiest place for a new baby is skin to skin with its mother right after birth”, she explains. “This way, the baby begins to breathe more easily and stays warm.” She leads the circle of participants in a discussion about the values of breastfeeding and offers practical tips for success.”
The Peaceful Beginning Doulas welcome all WNC expectant women and their partners to attend the FREE Labor and Birth Forums anytime during pregnancy whether it is a first baby or a third. The forums do not replace a childbirth class series but offer additional information and practice. The discussions are open, non-judgmental and confidential. Doulas, nurses and other maternal care professionals are also encouraged to attend and share in the discussions. Maternal Care Professionals are welcome to bring a supply of their business materials and/or coupons for tables located around the forum room. Forums are currently held the last Thursday of each month from 6:30pm to 8pm at the WRC building on the Mission Hospital Campus at 50 Doctor’s Drive. Please see www.peacefulbeginning.org/Labor-and-Birth-Forums–FREE.html for more information, updates and directions.
Cheryl Thomas Orengo is a retired Public Health Educator of 30 years and currently works as a Birth and Postpartum Doula, Doula Trainer and a Childbirth and Parenting Educator, teaching part-time at Mission Hospital. She is one of six doula business partners with Peaceful Beginning Doula Services, www.peacefulbeginning.org. Thurs. Dec. 29 at 6:30pm will be “Tips for Successful Breastfeeding Including Skin to Skin”, the sixth Lamaze Carepractice for Normal and Healthy Birth.
A long prosy meandering poem
“When I see light and color, I am light and color”
I awake with colors hovering, twisting, turning, shifting, waiting for me to pull them into myself and let them mix with my blood, swift through my veins, and out they’ll come, through my fingertips, from deep inside of me, mixed with my own molecules the colors are both yours and mine and the universe’s. I arise, full of color, full to the spilling point, full to the overrunning waters point, full and bloated with color, and down I descend to my writer’s room and spill the colors out for you to see, right onto the page I pour myself out to you.
As I write, my synapses fire off, alive with energy in reds, pinks, yellows, oranges, all the colors of a blazing sunrise that makes way for the coming blue sky, all the colors of the universe bend towards me in fractured prisms, a changeling pattern. As a child, I’d place the kaleidoscope to my eye, and then turn the bottom to watch the splintered colors move, shift, re-arrange into patterns that were so alive and lovely, I caught up my breath and held it deep inside my pink lungs. The jewels fractured and danced just by turning a seemingly simple cardboard tube, and yet the fracturing did not destroy but instead made the colors more unique and beautiful.
In front of me on a white plate is a toasted wheat bagel spread with alabaster cream cheese and piled high with delicate raspberries, along with black coffee poured into a sea-green mug pitted with the potter’s fingerprints. I troll my refrigerator for the taste of color—round fat blueberries, strawberries bursting juice and tiny seed, crunchy peppery radishes, sour limes, and the blackberries I pick in the mountain cove until my fingers are stained purple-blue-black. The shades coat my tongue and recall the hues of salty, tangy, sour, the bitter and the sweet.
From my window, there is the closest mountain ridge that in turn shows green, red-orange fire, and silent sepia tones, dotted with black-eyed susan, fire pink, jewelweed in yellow and orange, rosebay rhododendron. My dark-brown eyes flecked with tiny pin-pricks of gold travel to the valley below where Maggie Valley is lost among the thick branches of tulip poplar with their yellow-orange-green blooms, black cherry, silver maple, red spruce, and then slightly to my right, blue misty gray in the far distance, the Great Smoky Mountains as they rise up bold, ancient, undaunted.
These mountains willingly offer up themselves as my subject, but have no need to preen, for they are apparent. Where my german-chocolate-colored log house is perched, I place a palm to shade my eyes, and search for the colors of my neighbors spread out amongst shade- and sun-tipped colors of you and yours and where you live and love and die.
Within these mountains are metamorphic rock with their bands of light- and dark-colored minerals; and those hiding colored secrets only found when they are scrubbed clean, or more invasively broken away. The minerals, rock, and gems, all give North Carolina a palette that is not at first evident. For the eye is right away drawn to the obvious. But if one were to peek in deeper inspection, one can find feldspar, quartz, mica, emerald, beryl, red pyrope garnets, rose-pink rhodolite garnets, and star rubies and star sapphires in purple, purple-pink, and purple-red.
I take to the porch a glass of tea the color of my father’s eyes. The slammersmack of the cabin-red screen door echoes over the mountain. In the waving of the dark shading from the trees, in the green and sad brown of the dying hemlock, in the spotted bark of the buckeye tree that holds its mahogany seeds in their green shell, in the sharp scent of the cold creek running over rocks in colors of slate, milky-white, ginger, crimson, moss, russet, and those with their layers of white gray black green, and beyond into the woods where hides the orange-colored red-spotted newt and his olive-green cousin, where hides the redback salamander, bronze frog, redbelly snake and watch out for the copperheads, and where on the ground is the cranberry rootworm, the orangestriped oakworm, and flying in the mountain air the blue winged wasp, the Appalachian azure and red-banded hairstreak butterflies, and from all this I peer through the magic kaleidoscope in my orange and pink polka-dot flip flops.
Red-tailed hawk circles, once, twice, three times, warning of a coming storm. A blazing silver of lightening rips the sky. I huddle on the porch with my earthy-rich-colored quilt made by my mother’s hands thrown across my bare feet. The wind and whited-rain lash, and I know the spiders’ webs designed by the red-orange spiders, and as well, the fragile white-petal bloodroot, will be destroyed by the rain swollen clouds that open up and pour out, releasing their heavy loads in a fury. It is over quickly, the fog arrives, and the shadows of greened trees waver, only their outlines visible. The mountains are spirits, hidden beneath the thick pearled mists, but I am reassured by their constancy, for within the fog the colors remain, unseen, but waiting. Then away the ghosts go, and the mountains again appear.
As a girl, I sought the excitement of opening a fresh pack of crayons with the tips still pointed and the paper not yet torn and faded. I’d flip through a coloring book with all those empty spaces. I was the master of my world. I could color my skin reddish-brown, purpley-blue, aqua, tangerine—I could be anyone or anything with my colors.
I lift my face to the wind, smell the colors, and rise from my rocker, leash my dogs, who I’ve only to reach out and stroke to know Maggie’s thickly-soft, mottled gray, white, and tan fur, and Jake’s sleek, slightly oily, shiny black coat. We head down the road and I stop occasionally to close my eyes and touch color, smell color. At the curve, where the creek runs beneath the blacktopped road, I touch the sage-colored mullein, its leaves velvety where up up from its center shoots its tall stem from where grows a huddle of bright yellow flowers that resemble an ear of corn. Entering the trail to the point where the creek forks off, where I found the shell of a painted turtle with picked clean bones inside, I inhale the deeply earthy aroma of mushrooms with their bright orange dome smooth-bald and their fleshy ribbed underside.
I know from a flare of my nostrils the soft colored scent of the Lonicera fragrantissima or sweet breath of spring. Stopping to rest my back against a tree, I acknowledge the heavy, hard, close-grained bark of the Cercis canadensis, and know I am in the shade of a redbud tree.
Back home, I pour a glass of wine, red as the fresh-pricked blood I wipe from my arm scratched from the reach of a blackberry vine. The birds come to call in color—grosbeak with his white-feathered breast slashed scarlet as if he’s been pierced there, ruby-throated hummingbirds dip their long tapered beak into the sweet garnet mixture. Red cardinal with his what-cheer what-cheer, goldfinch’s per-chik-o-ree, American robin’s cherup cheerily cheerily. Their songs as individual as our own voices, sing to me in color, from their call I know their hues.
To my great great grandmother, who was (and is forevermore) full-blood Blackfoot, I am too much a white woman. Brown-red skin too mixed with pale ancestors. But my cheekbones tell her story, my strength, my (some say stubborn) pride. I feel her call to me in the howls of the red wolf, although it is told they have not survived in these mountains, I have heard her howl deep within that wilded part of me, and imagine her glorious black snout raised in a hair-standing-on-end call, teeth still pinkly-red from her last meal. We run together, in my dreams, and my great great grandmother is with us—we howl into the night, calling calling calling ancestors to us, calling to the women of the ages, “Come! Come with us!”
I consider all the skin colors of the world, the varying shades of our outer selves, the organ of such mystery and argument. And I think how we alter our appearances by coloring or uncoloring the natural way we are: bleach the hair, darken the silver-gray of age, tan or whiten, cover ourselves in bright silk, cotton, be-jewel our ears, fingers, toes, and wrists. Underneath all runs the familiarity of our blood that cannot be changed by a soul on this planet, and who would want to? For our connections to each other make the colors all the more vivid and gorgeous.
After an early supper of buttery smooth avocado and plump red grape tomatoes layered on baby greens, I dig a spoon into a brand new half-gallon of rainbow sherbet, scooping out cold treat into a clear bowl. I taste the differing shades of reds and pinks, let the sweet roll about on my tongue, and feel my lips turn blue-cold. I have a sudden memory of running through the just mown grass turning my bare feet green, and chasing behind me is a neighborhood boy. We are eight years old and browned from the sun. I hide behind a sweetgum tree and he finds me there, and in a moment of summer madness, he kisses me on the lips, and the taste is sweet, his lips still cold from the popsicles we’d just devoured, the juice staining our arms. I run into the house, both exhilarated and ashamed, and hide in my girly-pink bedroom. I touch my lips over and over, remembering how his were red from the Popsicle and how mine were purple from my own, and how they mixed together to create a new shade.
The evening is arriving. I’ve spent this day with you, opening my veins and spilling colors of my mountain cove and up and beyond to forever and ever. The sunset shouts a last cry to the sky, as all is fading to what is perceived as the absence of color—to black. Yet, the dark holds the colors within, as a backdrop for the firefly, the gold porch light from the house in the valley below, the swollen moon white and gray. In the dark, the less apparent shine. But, I am ahead of myself, first the sunset golden, red, yellow, pink, blaze fire across the sky in a memory of the morning’s sunset—the circle of life-colors, beginning with the sunrise and ending with the sunset.
I am thinking of you, and how I am recording all the colors for you, so that you can see, taste feel, smell, hear, and become the colors with me. I write the colors; I am the colors; we are the colors.
Kathryn Magendie lives in Maggie Valley, and is the author of Tender Graces, Secret Graces, Sweetie, and Petey in the anthology The Firefly Dance with Sarah Addison Allen, Augusta Troubaugh, and Phyllis Schieber. The third book in her Graces trilogy will be released winter 2011. Visit her at www.kathrynmagendie.com, on Facebook at Kathryn.magendie, or twitter @katmagendie.
By: Susa Silvermarie
Her plastic foot
is still broken,
the end wrapped round
in brown tape.
Her mint dress,
with its square neck
and black ricrac
along the hem,
needs a good scrub.
My old doll waits
on the closet shelf
for me to comb out
her sand-colored braids,
for me to recall
My old doll sings
soft in the closet:
Soon, she’ll come.
I’m deeply glad to have recently relocated from Wisconsin to Asheville, to begin living my Third Trimester. Visit me at www.susasilvermarie.com
By: Scott Hines
It was pretty good for one of those cookie-cutter action films. The writing was pretty tight and it had a happy romantic Hollywood ending. What was interesting was—it brought into my awareness that tremendous progress has been made on an issue that has caused me sadness throughout my life. In the movie, the good guys, the bad guys, and the really bad guys all had teams that were racially and ethnically diverse. And the romantic relationships crossed all historic taboos easily and comfortably.
Things have been changing quickly that way. It is so common to see interracial relationships on TV now that it is completely unremarkable. A few years back, I used to spend a bit of time in Washington DC (not Peoria, but definitely America) and I seldom saw couples from the same ethnic background. I can’t say how delighted I am that our culture is becoming so facile about partnering across cultural and ethnic lines. It has great meaning for me.
But it hasn’t been so long that bi-racial relationships were far outside the norm and would draw stares and even revulsion. When I was a wee lad, I had a precocious attraction to little girls. Every year I would pick one to have a year-long crush on and think of her as my girl friend. Kind of a private love affair with only one person knowing. I remember when I was in second grade, my eyes met the eyes of a beautiful little African-American girl and in that moment, she was the one. In the next moment, I was completely aware that it could never be—that was a painful realization. From that incident an inexplicable sadness took hold and lingered unexamined for decades.
It wasn’t something I thought about, the dis-ease was embedded in my cultural experience. Ozzie and Harriet had neither black neighbors nor friends and if Ricky dated a black girl we certainly never heard about it. The cross-racial taboo was not something I had ever heard talked about and it certainly didn’t come from my family, at least not in any direct way. The presence of it was simply unspoken in the culture and my young mind had already noted it. But there was also awareness that that absence had a reason, even if I did not understand what it was. I certainly did not know how to talk about it, or to whom. In the fifties, my mid-western hometown was about one-third African-American; if there was a bi-racial couple in it, I certainly wasn’t aware of it. I suspect if there was, it would have been a big topic of conversation and I would have heard about it.
Years later, during a playful moment in high school, I made a date with a black girl that I had been friends with for a couple of years. Friends in that context meant we could talk and be friendly in school, engage in conversation at school functions, and generally feel easy and friendly around each other. We certainly didn’t run around together nor have mutual friends outside of school. I say made a date, but it was very playful. A time and day was set and we both agreed and then laughed. Could we go through with it? Did we actually make a date? We were kidding, right? I didn’t know and I wasn’t sure what I would do.
If I didn’t show up it would be standing her up and she could be rightfully offended. If I did show up, I might look foolish, not getting the joke. But if she was serious (though she probably wasn’t), I still wanted to do it. And I didn’t want to. Yeah, I was scared. I put on my date clothes and went to the south side of town where 99% of African-Americans still lived then and knocked on her door. Her mother answered the door, surprise not well-hidden. My friend came to see me, not dressed for going out, confirmed we were playing; no date. It was a comfortable uncomfortable moment and I never had a notion of regret for showing up for the non-date.
After school I married a fine young woman of German stock, went into business, made a blended family of adopted Latinos and a biological child. We lived, well, a life that looked a lot like our parents—except for having children that were brown and did not look like us. We moved to the South and continued a path that honored the conventions of our mid-west upbringings.
Along the way I met an African-American man who shared the story of a profound experience in his life. Born in Mississippi in the fifties, his mother was a day-worker in the home of a white family. His mother took him to work with her and he shared a crib and play pen with his mother’s employers’ baby girl. They were together every day for years and the two children became close friends, perhaps more like siblings.
When the children reached the age of eight, the girl’s parents felt it was no longer proper for them to play together. Her parents told his mother not to bring him anymore. That was that. There was no conversation, no explanation. The visits stopped and contact with his best friend ended with it. I don’t think I could fully understand the experience of what he told me, but I was able to empathize with his pain, reflecting on my own.
My children grew, the marriage came apart, and I was single again in my late thirties. One of my Latina daughters made me a 37-year-old grandfather of a Latino-Iraqi/African-American (so she tells me) grandson. Five years later my biological granddaughter was born and my daughter married her African-American father. These two children became a primary focus in my life and to this day my heart beats with theirs. We were in the early nineties then and my family’s life was evidence that things in America were changing; cross-racial, cross-ethnic relationships seemed commonly accepted.
Around that time, again, desire rose up in me to cross the barriers, kindled by another woman; this one with dark black skin and flirtatious eyes. We were a couple for over a year and cultural and ethnic differences had nothing to do with the ending. There was broad acceptance among our friends and families, but it became obvious we were noticed in more public settings. Eating in a fine restaurant in Chapel Hill, filled with sophisticated diners, the eyes were upon us. It was not just a feeling. A glance around the room found eyes fixed, unable to release the unusual picture. One weekend morning near the beach we stopped for breakfast and we were standing in line. She was the only black face in the crowd. That time it was not just the looking, it was the faces of the lookers. I could project a lot of possibilities; but blatant discomfort and apparent distaste surprised me.
Twice, once in Chapel Hill and once on the campus of the University of Michigan, we experienced the disapproval of young black men. Both times, out in the evening, the expression was verbal and clear. I still remember the utterance of one young man as he passed, going in the opposite direction, “Uh-uh, sister!” She was dark and beautiful and I quite white. Perhaps it was the vast disparity in color, perhaps they thought she should be with someone better-looking. All I know is that in the early nineties we were a spectacle.
As my grandchildren have grown, I have watched to see at what point they would come to deal with racial issues and their still-unique heritage. Would there come a crisis of racial identity at some point? How would they handle it? For my grandson, a crisis of identity did arrive one day and I remember it vividly, as his parents were out of town and I stepped into the void. But it had nothing to do with race, and I cannot say that it was any different than any other teenager’s experience when the pressures of school, social standing, and negotiating impending adulthood come rushing into life.
Both grandchildren seem to flow easily between the worlds of their parents’ families and for a while it was evident that my grandson really wanted and needed the connection to his step-father’s family. He attended huge family reunions every summer if he could. He learned to negotiate the social scene in his high school, eventually finding his best friends in the small pool of bi-racial kids from a mixture of parents.
My grandson is a well-adjusted young man who dates easily, and color and race are of no account. There is no discussion among us of such things as there is nothing to discuss. I never know the race, color, or looks of his girlfriends until I meet them or they appear on Facebook. Who he will be with is unpredictable, as he doesn’t see differences in the same way I did. My granddaughter, recently entering the dating world, seems equally unconcerned.
So I am grateful that my grandchildren are living in a different world that doesn’t automatically separate people on the basis of skin color or cultural background. You can walk the streets now and see the grandchildren of immigrants from many Asian cultures walking hand in hand with the descendants of European, African, and Latino cultures. And members of those cultures with each other. For the newly arrived, integration is often happening faster. Of course there are going to be pockets of resistance, but the American culture has crossed the abyss and there is no going back. The pockets will get smaller and smaller.
I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of JFK, and all the other turmoil of the sixties. The civil rights movement, the Watergate hearings, and the Vietnam War were amazing events happening during my life. We have entered the information age and the rate of change is increasing. This is a fascinating time to be alive and I am grateful to have witnessed so many extraordinary events. But for me personally, there is nothing more significant than watching the arbitrary cultural walls, built to keep people in a false sense of separateness, come down at a faster and faster rate. And, maybe even more to the point, that a little white boy can look a little black girl in the eye, feel the connection, and not flinch.
Scott Hines splits his time delivering relationship workshops, coaching individuals in business and their personal interests, and personally customizing houses to meet homeowner desires. firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Janie Savage
June 2nd, 2010—the day after I had the epiphany that I am to write my spiritual memoir—and that is that. No other passion pulling me or sending me out on a wild goose chase any longer. I woke all juiced up. I was excited to be going to Salisbury to see my group of women friends who started out over ten years ago in an Artist’s Way workshop. We formed a group that affectionately called ourselves the Barn Women for too long.
The friendships have remained but we no longer call our group anything but soul friends.
One of us, Tree, had the creative audacity to write a ten-minute play and enter it into a contest for the Black Box. And, lo and behold, she won! So I was up cooking and preparing for an evening of fun and then spending the night at the Lake House, Jane’s retreat getaway house. That day I woke up singing and I didn’t stop. The creative juices were flowing and I felt a deep connection in celebrating Tree’s accomplishment!
I pulled out my memoir notes early and made the dutiful effort and then commenced to baking cookies and kneading bread. While my hands were deep in soft pliable dough, inspiration hit me. It was no wonder Tree was nervous—seeing her play performed on stage would be like being naked up there in front of God and everybody! My husband walked into the kitchen just a few minutes after inspiration hit, he was getting ready to leave for work.
“Can I take a picture of your butt?” I asked nonchalantly, as I kneaded the white, dimply dough.
“No, you cannot!” He answered without hesitation as he backed quickly away from me. “I have to leave, I love you,” he said, shaking his head, confused but not wanting to ask any questions.
“Love you, too; have a nice day!” I called after him, laughing.
I punched, rolled, and squeezed the mass of soft, swelling mixture until it was smooth and elastic, then I poured olive oil over it and set on the stovetop to rise. By the time I put the cookies in the oven, loaded with white and dark chocolate plus toffee chips, I had decided to follow through with my idea of Tree’s card.
Blackberry in hand, I dropped my pants. I’d never taken a picture of my hindquarters before, and, in the moment, I was dead set on having a naked butt background for Tree’s card. My first attempt was aimed too low. I cringed and erased it quickly, but not too quick to sneak a peek. It was a blatant crotch shot. That would never do. I re-aimed, again and again. In the end, I had taken five full-on naked rump shots. Aside from the strangeness of taking pictures of my own derriere, I was amazed it looked kinda perky. At the risk of sounding conceited, I muttered, “Now that’s a nice ass!”
I spent far too much time with the butt card than I care to admit, but fun and laughter rolled around the floor as I glued phrases onto the page. While I was taking hot cookies off the cookie sheet, a text came through on my Blackberry. The message was from a text junkie friend of mine from work. I laughed out loud when I saw the cartoon butt on the forwarded joke. A booty call song was playing in the background! Little did she know I had just taken those five photos. Now what are the chances of that? I needed more phrases to go on Tree’s card, so I ran into the dining room where my computer was and wrote down more. “Shakin’ the Booty,” and “Booty Call,” as well as several others that flowed right to me.
Synchronicity? I wondered, as I continued to paste. A little twinge of guilt nibbled at me. Was I sabotaging my memoir-writing with this distraction? The energy inside me kept me moving to complete the card of congratulations. Finally, I finished with a flourish of satisfaction, and then I obediently sat down to printing out a story to take with me also, just in case I got the urge to share it with my friends.
As I was getting ready to leave, I spent the last few minutes obediently writing in one of my spiritual memoir chapters.
While I half-heartedly gave some empty minutes to duty, I started second-guessing myself around the card I’d created. I decided to call my husband and run it by him. Jeff was always joking and would surely think it funny. I just needed a boost of encouragement before I presented it to my friend.
“That’s just inappropriate,” my husband finally replied in a tight, pinched voice, after I told him about the card I had created for my friend.
“But don’t you get it? It’s my naked butt to symbolize Tree being naked with her writing? Get it?”
“No, I don’t get it. I don’t want your naked butt out there,” he stated flatly with no hint of his usual humor.
“You wouldn’t let me use a picture of yours, so what was I supposed to do?” I couldn’t believe my husband was not getting the joke.
“You could have found one on the internet,” he suggested weakly.
“The internet?” I squawked. “You want me to google “asses”? Do you know what kind of crap I’d get? No way; that’s your department,” I muttered snidely. I could not resist throwing a button of mine in the stew. “Besides, I couldn’t have a generic butt, I had to use mine.”
My husband did not see the light, but I had already decided I would follow through with it. “Well, maybe I shouldn’t give it to her if it’s that bad,” I offered weakly. My husband didn’t counter with any altruistic gesture, so I moved ahead.
I gave the card to Tree along with the story of how my husband had deemed it inappropriate. Somehow his disdain for my butt being on the card, and my having to give it anyway, made the card funnier. Tree laughed, as did our other friends. We all agreed it was a pretty fine derriere, even though it was quite blurred by the time I rather ineptly took a picture from my Blackberry with my digital camera and printed it out on my printer.
The best part truly was that Tree’s mood was lightened for a little while. Her play was awesome, and our group of friends all shared in her moment on stage! Sometimes it is just awesome to show your butt!
The next morning as I journaled, it struck me how I had so much energy around the “inappropriate” card. I’d pulled an animal tarot card the previous night; it was the blue heron. The message I received for the blue heron card was to be courageous enough to be who I really am, to connect with my feelings to show me who that is.
I thought about the deep joy, the laughter, the energy that stirred around creating the card; the story that wove itself around the circumstances of the “doing.” How I had appeased the guilt by sandwiching the creative “meatiness” between thin slices of white, holy bread, my very clean stories of faith.
So I asked myself: What was real? How could God not be in the joy-filled making-of-the- card story? As I write this, I am enveloped in love, in complete and unconditional love. I just want to testify, yes I do, and it’s much bolder, must be more courageous than the fear; the love, the joy, the barren desert as well as the mountaintop—God is in it all. I cannot tell my story without the laughter, the absurdity of my experience, as well as the light of the blazing miracles .
Janie Savage is a city letter-carrier for the US postal service in Canton, North Carolina. She has also operated a Bed-&-Breakfast in Waynesville, North Carolina with her husband. Recently, she has begun transitioning the Bed-&-Breakfast into a retreat center. This is a chapter from her spiritual memoir, I Just Want to Testify. Contact her at JANIE28125@msn.com
By: Wendolyn Thurston Forbes
Will he find me tonight? I peek from behind the translucent ivory curtain through the off-white blinds of my bedroom window. I’ve been doing this since I moved here thirty-five years ago. Georgie, my great-granddaughter, is in the living room watching Billy Graham. She thinks I’m changing into my night things. I am, but I have to take a peek.
Did you hear that? There’s a car pulling into the parking lot. I hope the driver doesn’t see me. But is it him?
Fifty-seven years have passed since I saw him last, his little fist thrust in the air like a leader rallying his people to victory. His body tightly wrapped in the baby blanket I bought at the Woolworth’s downtown. I paid a dollar and fifteen cents for that cotton blanket, ivory in color, soft as a kitten and thick as wool. I told the clerk that it was for my nephew. It’s not that I thought the clerk cared about my purchase. I didn’t even recognize her. But Princeton was a small town and I didn’t want to give people reason to start rattling off stories about how I spent my money. Perhaps she would tell Myrtle Jones in the toiletry aisle that I was buying it for my nephew, because Myrtle was the type of woman who would ask. And perhaps Myrtle would smile and say, “What a good girl. Her parents have sure raised her proper.” After all, I was only thirteen.
“Grandma! What’s taking you so long?”
“Just a minute, honey.”
I keep the lights out in my room and change into my night things when I know there’s no more company coming to visit and there’s just a bit of evening light shining through my window. I try not to change into my night things when it’s dark: who knows who might look in my window or what part of me they’ll see! Hurriedly I change into my satiny pink pajamas and slip into my slippers.
Raylene, my sister, was so angry with me when she found out. She thought I brought it all on myself.
“Always out with the boys,” she scolded. “This is just what you needed. I suppose you’ll learn now.”
Even after what he’d done, Raylene stayed married to Jack.
“Daddy, do you mind if Jenny stays with me through the summer? I need some help with the house. Jack and I have a lot of work to do,” she said.
Daddy shrugged his heavy shoulders, strands of his dark red hair falling loose from beneath his cap. He raised his arms, dust all over his shirt, overalls, and boots, his skin caked with the stuff.
Daddy looked at me, his eyes a brilliant green.
“Be good to your sister and do as she says, okay, Sugarpop?”
“Yes, Daddy,” I said and rushed into his arms. I breathed deeply the fragrance of clay powder and earth, the scent of our homeland mixed with my father’s masculine smell.
I didn’t have much to pack. Being the sixth child out of seven children, there wasn’t much to go around. Our mother had died of cancer when I was six.
“Don’t need to pack too much, Jenny,” Raylene said quietly as she sat on my bed and watched me pack, “you’ll be wearing my clothes before too long.”
Daddy didn’t suspect a thing.
I lived in the same house as the man who raped me. But back then we didn’t call it rape. In fact, we didn’t call it anything at all. Raylene watched me like a mother hen watches her chicks. Jack was always in a separate room, even when we ate our meals.
There was never a question of whether I would get to keep the baby. We didn’t talk about anything more than the day-to-day sort of stuff like the weather, the crops, family, and food.
I never voiced my desire to keep him. But at night when I laid in my bed I thought about Momma and how she looked when she was pregnant.
John was her seventh child, carried during the summer of 1938. I remember how my momma looked so beautiful to me and she would let me touch her belly.
“Right here, Jenny. Feel this? That’s your brother or sister in there saying hello to you,” she said.
I remember both of us laughing as I gently pressed my tiny hand against momma’s belly, strong and round.
After seven months, as I lay in bed and felt my baby kick against me, fat tears rolled down my cheeks. I thought of how no one but me would know about this moment. I glanced out the window of my room at the full moon. No one would know but me and the people whose business my life became.
The baby came unexpectedly. I was outside hanging laundry and it was a Monday morning. The September air was crisp and cool against my skin. When the first labor pain hit, I thought that it was the bacon I’d eaten for breakfast. I ignored the pain and kept working. Raylene must have known something was wrong because she hollered out at me.
“Jenny, get in here right quick! Leave the laundry where it is!”
I made it to the stairs of the house when the world around me went black.
When I woke up Raylene was by my side—and a blonde woman. They spoke so quietly that I barely understood, but I recognized “midwife.”
“Jenny?” the voice wasn’t Raylene’s.
I nodded that I could hear her.
“I’m here to help. There is a couple…”
I didn’t listen to the rest. I didn’t want to know.
I was too young. There were no papers. There were no names. The baby was born and it was given to a couple.
Momma always said to me, “The truth will set you free.” I keep my Bible on the coffee table for all to see that I am a good, God-fearing Christian woman. What truth will set me free? The past has passed and I have moved on with a husband, children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren.
“Hey there, Georgie, you want some supper?”
“How about a baked potato?”
“Oh, yes! Lots of butter and salt, please!”
I’ve made my way out of the bedroom, through the hallway and living room into the kitchen. Stop.
I heard something rattle. Is someone at the window?
I tiptoe to the kitchen door, my slippers quietly rubbing against the linoleum floor. I peek from behind the rayon window dressing through the blinds and out the window, just a crack, just in case. I see the perpetrator: the aluminum trashcan lid blowing in the wind.
“Grandma! What are you doing?”
I drop the window dressing and quickly turn to see Georgie standing in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen, hands on her hips.
“Just looking out the window, sugar. I heard a noise.”
Georgie looks a little worried, her eyebrows arch a little higher.
“Who is it? Do we need to call the police?” She whispers.
I laugh a little and walk up to her.
“No, sugar. We’re alright. Everything’s just fine.”
Wendolyn Thurston Forbes lives in Asheville with her husband, children, three dogs, and three cats. This story, though a work of fiction, is based on actual events that happened to her great-grandmother—who, over time, created a softly worn spot in the window sill where she leaned for indeterminable amounts of time, waiting for her firstborn son to find her.
By: Janet Marie Melton Sharp
This is a story about healing. June 23rd, 1998 marks the anniversary of the death of my Granddaddy Tweed. For a year and a half, Granddaddy fought a good battle against stomach and colorectal cancer. For the past twelve years, I have carried around a great sense of loss and guilt. I did not see my Granddaddy for the last three months of his life because I could not bear to have my mind’s last picture of him resembling a victim of the holocaust.
A few years ago, I entered into the Hospice volunteer program. It was there that I began to learn how to heal through grief. While my grief over Granddaddy’s death was not debilitating, I didn’t seem to be moving forward in the healing process very well. I always thought that I would grieve hard for two or three years and then I would be completely healed. Hospice taught me that there is no set time for grieving; that it’s okay to let memories move you to emotion and that there is a thing called good grief.
Upon completion of my volunteer training, I became a file person for the nurses. My day job allowed me to work one day every three weeks or so. Filing gave me the opportunity to get a feel for how Hospice worked. From the doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, counselors – so many people working together to bring comfort and understanding to the chaos and bewilderment that is associated with terminal illnesses such as cancer.
A couple of years ago, I made a career change. My new day job was no longer flexible enough for me to maintain my Hospice filing duties. I was left with a sense that I had abandoned the one thing that was helping me to heal. I began to look for other ways to keep Hospice in my life. I became a contributor to the Super Flea event. I like going through my treasures and sending them on to some else’s house for dusting. I got so wrapped up in it this year that my husband and two cats run every time they see an empty box come out.
It was that career change that brought Yvie (short for Yvette) into my life. I was not able to have a child of my own due to an invasive reproductive cancer scare at the age of twenty eight. It took five major operations and fourteen years for me to be free from the pre-cancer cells. I have always found children of all ages to be fascinating. Yvie was around fourteen months old when we first met. She stood about two and half feet tall with cherub cheeks, wispy strawberry blonde hair and a familiar sparkle of mischief in her brilliant blue eyes. My husband, Dale and I were babysitting Yvie in her home for the first time. We played with her toys, ate goldfish crackers and danced to the number one hits on the children’s chart. By early evening, Yvie had fallen asleep in my arms. Dale carried Yvie to the nursery and placed her in the crib. Lying in her crib, bathed by the soft light of a nearby lamp, Yvie opened her eyes, smiled at us and went right back to sleep. We stood there in somber silence and amazement that we had had the fortitude to outlast Yvie’s young energy. As I turned to leave the nursery, a picture frame caught my attention. There elegantly hanging on the wall was a perfectly executed, cross stitched birth sampler for Yvie. As I read the date, a lump began to grow in my throat –
June 23rd, 1995. My eyes were already beginning to burn with tears when I pointed out the sampler to Dale. It was at that exact moment I realized life does come full circle. On the date that I had lost someone I treasured, Stuart and Leslie gained someone to treasure. I remember looking at Yvie, still asleep in her crib and whispering, ‘Good night little angel and thank you.”
I began thinking about the upcoming Super Flea in March. I knew that I wanted to do something special – something to show that my healing process was making strides. Since my Granddaddy Tweed was an artist who upholstered and restored furniture from all time periods – I also knew that I wanted to make something with my hands. I have been making beaded angels to tie on Christmas packages for many years. I like to dabble in writing poetry and so I began to put my plan into action. Each angel is made with seventy three iridescent beads and each bead represents one good memory or laugh shared with Granddaddy. I have been able to make fifty angels in time for the Super Flea – that’s three thousand six hundred and fifty good memories so far! The memories range from taking him to show and tell in kindergarten; making him sit down for an afternoon tea party; getting him to pick fresh mint to decorate my mud pies; walking on the beach and looking at the sea shells never picking them up so that other people could see their beauty; learning all the names of the trees, birds and flowers around us; planting seeds and harvesting a garden; picking up his favorite peppermint candy on weekend trips home from college; watching him and his current wife and Mom and Dad play Backalley card games; making homemade ice cream on Sunday afternoons; splashing in mud puddles until our socks were soaked; taking my first new car for a really fast spin around the block – twice; to wondering if I would ever find that special boy in my Christmas stocking.
I realized that by not sharing my memories of Granddaddy I was punishing him for dying. Sharing his memory lessens the loss because it makes me feel more connected to him. The talent that I have for needle crafts and making things with my hands came from Granddaddy. I can continue to honor his life by sharing my crafts with others. These simple beaded angels have given me and my Granddaddy wings.
This story had to be written in time for Yvie’s third birthday because three was the age I was when I was queen of the grandchildren. I was number fifteen in the line of twenty one grandchildren. I reigned for two years before my aunt Betty Jane had the twins – but I’m not bitter any more. Three was also the age that Granddaddy gave me my nickname – Miss Pooh. I was being potty trained and I could not say the word through – all my th’s came out as p’s. So when I called to Momma I would say, “Momma, I’m poo!” My Granddaddy heard this and from then on I was known as Miss Poo. Granddaddy gave all of us nicknames which we still call each other even today.
Healing feels better than hurting. I think you have to allow yourself to hurt in order to heal. I would encourage anyone reading this story, anyone having to deal with the loss of a loved one, to look at that person’s life. Look at their passions, hobbies, talents and find ways to honor them by keeping what they started going so that you too can come full circle. It is also very important that you forgive yourself for any decisions you made that might not have worked out as you thought they would. Sometimes we think we are preserving ourselves – keeping ourselves safe from too much heartache. Only to find out later that life inside a Mason jar can make you smell bad. You need to take the lid off – venture out amongst people – share your stories and your memories – other people are hurting too and together we can help each other.
In closing, I am not going to lie to you and tell you that my days of shedding tears over the loss of my Granddaddy are over because I know that they are not. My Granddaddy is worth every tear that I shed. He continues to live in my heart where our wonderful memories are stored forever. Holidays are especially hard but with this healing comes an approach of taking inventory of what I have rather than what I have lost – besides, I have a lot more angels to make!
I am a Hospice angel,
Made out of simple beads.
I will bring you compassion,
And listen to your needs.
I like to be hung in the bright sunshine,
Or on a branch of an evergreen tree.
I will cast a brilliant rainbow of colors,
For all the world to see.
I will remind you to treasure life’s simplest things,
And I promise to stay by your side until you get your wings.
Janet was raised in Hendersonville, NC. Graduated from UNC-Asheville with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Accounting. She has spent the last ten years as Staff Accountant for The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina. Janet makes her home in Asheville, NC with her husband of 26 years, Dale and their two Tonkinese kitty boys – Charlie and Oliver.
Echoes Across the Blue Ridge: Stories, Essays, and Poems
by Writers Living in and Inspired by the Southern Appalachian Mountains
Nancy Simpson, Editor
Editor Simpson, in her introduction, writes that Glenda Barrett’s poem Echoes suggested the book’s title. The narrator cannot silence national discourse on war, poverty, and the homeless, but she can . . . follow in the footsteps of [her] faithful ancestors. . . . People whose voices still echo across these Blue Ridge Mountains. Steve Harvey, in his essay The Oldest Answer, discusses the eerie silence that Ms. Barrett’s Faithful Ancestors . . . needed to fill . . . with something human: a story, perhaps, or a song or a poem. The ballad is . . . all three at once. The composers and authors of these ballads, book excerpts (published and in progress), essays, poetry, and short stories invite us to step away from our incessant din of national discourse into the silence that inspired the Ancient Faithful.
The song writers and authors span the generations. Ancient Faithful Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1958), . . . the mountain poet from [Georgia] who was the finest writer of the literary ballad in our time, filled the silence with ballads such as Lest the
Lonesome Bird. Contemporary Poet Laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer, in Last Light, challenges the absurd questions asked women with failing memories . . . as if those numbers and names / matter more in the end than this place / where I stand at the same kitchen window, / observing the same pines set swaying by the wind, . . . . Before planes and satellites polluted her sky, the narrator in Poet Laureate Bettie M. Sellers’ Complaint to Betelgeuse knew . . . that stars were stars / and stayed wherever in that distant place their ordered orbit was. The New Faithful ponder music, religion, memories of the elderly, madness, and nature as though taking dictation from their predecessors.
Into the lively Contradance in Brasstown (Ellen Andrews) An old lady comes to dance,. . . . Her timing is off, but Her partners provide well for her . . . respectful of her bewilderment. In the attic of an elderly father mourning his musician son . . . a fiddle, a banjo and a guitar stood quietly in a corner, like chastened children (Listen to the Mocking Bird, Gary Carden). The dulcimer player in As the Deer (Mary Michelle Brodine Keller) admires a grazing deer as Quietness slides along her body / my finger descending the string / in a smooth slur of music. . . .
Chicken and Dumplings (Estelle Darrow Rice) reveals nothing about the Bishop’s church service, but his Sunday dinner expectations indicate that he serves plenty of fire and brimstone. The humble kindness of acolyte George (The Trillium, Glenda Beall) and Deacon Thomas (The Man on the Doorsteps, William V. Reynolds) defy the Bishop’s traditional religiosity. Even more audacious, an elderly cancer victim moves a newly-ordained minister to tears with his certainty that their beloved dogs await them for The Final Gathering (Dick Michener).
Elder memories are treasures in any era. Beulah (Kitty Inman) recalls her siblings shoving her through the tiny chicken coop door to perch the ducks and chickens on their roosts before their father discovers a deed certain to bring swift punishment. She hasn’t eaten chicken since! In Rendezvous (Charlotte Wolf), Celia looks up into the far-reaching arms of the 400-year-old oak that has been her quiet place, her safe place since she was a child. Bewildered, an elderly coon dog follows his master’s advice: If You Can’t Run With the Big Dogs, Stay on the Porch (Mary Lou McKillip).
Did eerie mountain silence drive the mothers in The Third Floor Bedroom (Lana Hendershott) and The Spirit Tree (Susan Lefler) to madness? The first mother continually brushes imaginary spiders from her arms; the second increasingly alienates Billy Ann, her young daughter. Veteran’s, driven to the brink by war’s madness must, like the Pot Belly Stove (John T. Campbell), be . . . appeased [or] the whole edifice will go up in flames. The driver in Street Scene (Jayne Jaudon Ferrer) burns with shame when she realizes that the pedestrian she maliciously misjudged is . . . a woman abandoned . . . dumped like discarded ballast.
The Goat Man (Rachel Bronnum) delights his audience as he . . . shepherds his goats in bah-ing cacophony, tripping through the middle of town. The Apple Man (Richard Argo) advises the new owner of Sultan, a brutalized roan gelding, to sell the horse insurance. Puppy (A Walk in the Dark, StarShield Lortie) reminds his harried mistress why she . . . moved to this mountain town. Unlike Aunt Lucille, the narrator in Visitor (Maren O. Mitchell) welcomes and honors her . . . elusive Ursa come to earth. . . . It’s a Seagull Morning on Lake Chatuge (Karen Paul Holmes) wonders if the gulls stay near Bell Mountain during January’s abnormally cold temperatures . . . to dance among mountains, where melodies . . . still hover, preserved for gull generations. . . .
The book is divided into Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall; each section honored within. For nature’s proof that winter looms, consult Rosemary Royston’s Dogwood Winter. The narrator in Dancer (Eileen Lampe) yearns to live like the final leaf falling from the branch . . . full of vigor to the last. The man in Memories of Summer (Marshall McClung) reports that As I grow older, summer reminds me of my youth even more.
The New Faithful protest the desecration of their beloved mountains. Beneath the sparkling surface of the lake created by the Fontana Dam (Brenda Kay Ledford), decay Pieces of railroad . . . Broken plates from a farm house. . . . In Ms. Ledford’s Progress, . . . The Shewbird Mountain / quivers beneath the Thunder Moon / as the mining company / creeps up the mountain / to grind her bones into dust. The Summit Bald (Wendy Richard Tanner) offers hope for the land as eagles and owls, bears and foxes reclaim abandoned farm land.
Unfortunately, Reading Friends, I must end my foray into this captivating book. Please accept the invitation of the Ancient and New Faithful to abandon noisy spaces for the silence that calls them to the
wonder and wisdom recorded in these pages.
Hope to see you there!
The authors belong to North Carolina Writers’ Network West (Netwest), a chapter of North Carolina’s Writers’ Network. They live in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. Netwest offers support and encouragement through critique groups, classes, workshops, and other programs. Read more about the group at netwestwriters.blogspot.com
By: Maureen McDonnell
Facts not fear should guide our decisions about the HPvaccine.
Of course we want to protect our children and ourselves against the most common sexually transmitted disease: Human Papilloma Virus (HP) that an estimated 20 million Americans are now infected with. Unquestionably if the body does not clear it, this virus can turn into a persistent infection which can lead to the development of genital warts and or cervical (as well as other types of) cancer. However, the question some of us are asking is: without long term safety studies, why is the vaccine to prevent HPnow being recommended (and in some states mandated) for all 11 year old girls and boys? Many of us are also wondering if vaccines are always the safest, best and only way to prevent the spread of infections.
Epidemiological studies report that sexually active men and women are at the greatest risk for developing an HPinfection and that 74% of infections occur between the ages of 14 and 24. These studies also estimate that 80% of sexually active women will acquire an HPinfection by age 50. Just as important a fact however is that 90% of HPinfections clear on their own within 2 years and in younger women, they often clear within a year.
Diane Harper, MD was the principal investigator and lead research scientist in the development of the vaccine for HP. She appears in the new film that questions the safety of vaccines entitled: The Greater Good (GreaterGoodMovie.org) in which she expresses concern about the rush to market the HPvaccine after only 15 months of an originally scheduled four-year trial. She says the vaccine should not have been “face-tracked” in this way and is troubled by the reports of many adverse reactions including Juvenile ALS, pancreatitis, and autoimmune problems. She also states that the vaccine has only been shown to provide protection from HPfor 5 years. The question then begs to be answered if most women are not becoming sexually active until on average age 17.3 why are we vaccinating children as young as 9 years old?
Barbara Loe Fisher, the founder and director of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC.org) in Washington, DC who appears with Dr. Harper in the film discusses her opposition to “forced” vaccination policies as well as her concern over the sheer number of vaccines children now receive. In the 1980’s children received approx 11 vaccines before entering kindergarten, and now 3 decades later they receive anywhere from 36-45 vaccines prior to the age of 5. It should also be noted that during this same time period Autism rates increased in children from 3 per 10,000 to 1 in 110 (1 in 93 in North Carolina), Asthma increased by 300% and many other chronic illnesses including Diabetes, Cancer, ADHD, etc. have escalated beyond anyone’s prediction or expectation.
Several physicians interviewed for the film expressed their dismay regarding the fact that since the release of Gardasil, in 2006, the Vaccine Adverse Event Recording System (VAERS) received and recorded over 15,000 incidences of adverse reactions. Additionally, the Judicial Watch group (after obtaining records from FDA via the Freedom of Information Act) reported in October 2011, 47 deaths associated with the HPvaccine.
A few facts to consider regarding HP, cervical cancer and the vaccine:
- 50% of men and women will acquire an HPinfection in their lifetime.
- Persistent infections can lead to genital warts in men and women and cervical cancer in women.
- 90% of HPinfections clear on their own. A quote from the National Cancer Institute “It is important to note however that the great majority of high risk HPinfections go away on their own and do not cause cervical cancer. (2)
- HPhas been detected in 99.7% of all cervical cancers making it the highest level of association for a specific cause of a major human cancer. (3)
- The American Cancer Society estimated that “in 2007 about 11,150 cases of cervical cancer would be diagnosed in the US and an estimated 3,6770 of those women would die from the disease.” (1)
- For women in the US, Cervical Cancer represents 1.6% of all cancers diagnosed and 1.3% of deaths.
- Cervical cancer typically takes 20 years to develop.
- Pap smears remain the only proven method for cervical cancer prevention and is primarily responsible for the decline in mortality from cervical cancer.
- The CDC states that about 30% of cancers will not be prevented with the vaccine.
- Cervical cancer is also associated with other risk factors: smoking, increased age, presence of other STD’s and a suppressed immune system.
- Not all persistent infections develop into precancerous lesions and not all precancerous lesions persist to become cervical cancer. (4)
- The manufacturer of the vaccine spent over 100 million dollars in advertising the first year the vaccine was on the market.
- Sales of Gardasil topped 2 Billion dollars in 2008.
- Spain withdrew 76,000 doses of the vaccine in 2009 after reports of women being hospitalized after receiving the vaccine.
- According to a poll conducted by the National Vaccine Information Center there have been more reactions and deaths associated with Gardasil than with any other vaccine. The original study followed 1200 girls ages 16-26 for a period of 15 months prior to the release of Gardasil. It was not tested on 9-11 year olds.
- The vaccine contains 225mcg of Aluminum (a known neurotoxin) and Polysorbate 80
- Congress passed a law in the 80s which does not allow an individual to sue a vaccine manufacturer for damages caused by a vaccine. One must go through the Vaccine Compensation Court. To date, that court has awarded over 2 Billion in damages associated with vaccines.
- There are an estimated 6000 cases per year of HPassociated neck and head cancers in men. The duration and efficacy of Gardasil in males has not been established beyond 3 years. (Read Gardasil’s FDA Biologics License Application for indication in males for genital warts). Compare 6000 cases of men with HPrelated cancers with 215,000 incidents of lung cancer and 182,000 individuals diagnosed with breast cancer per year.
- Men who have sex with men are 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer. But research has shown the vaccine provides heterosexual males with wart protection for 2.9 years, not homosexual men.
- A study in the New England Journal of Medicine stated that the use of condoms decreases the risk of acquiring HPby 70%.
- 100 HPgenotypes have been identified. Most infect the epithelium and cause benign plantar warts. Approx 40 types are responsible for mucosal infection. HP16 and HP18 cause approx 70% cervical cancers worldwide.
- HPV 6 and 11 cause 90% genital warts in men and women.
This is not an easy list of facts to wade through. But as we make our individual choices regarding whether we or our 9-11 year old children should receive this vaccine, it is these very facts, not fear that needs to be the basis from which we make our decisions. Recently, in California, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that permits children as young as nine to be presented with information on cervical cancer and subsequently receive the HPvaccine in school without their parents knowledge or consent! It’s also interesting to note (while you are digesting that piece of information) that when the Governor of Texas (and Republican presidential hopeful) Rick Perry tried to mandate that all 11-year-old girls in his state receive the vaccine, it was discovered that his chief of staff was a former lobbyist for Merck. As Barbara Loe Fisher is quoted as saying “That’s not science, that’s politics!”
A few unanswered questions about Gardasil:
- The vaccine is produced in Saccharomyces Cerevisiae (Baker’s yeast). So it is contraindicated for people with a yeast problem. However, many individuals with candida or yeast have never been tested for or diagnosed with it and therefore would not be aware that they are potential candidates for having an adverse reaction to the vaccine.
- Because it is not a live vaccine, co-administration with other vaccines (given at the same time) is permitted. Really? In all the research done for this article, I did not find one study in which the (long and short term) reactions of administering Gardasil at the same time as other vaccines was looked at.
- It is also recommended that the vaccine can be given with minor acute illnesses and or if immune-suppressed. If physicians, the FDA, the CDC, and the American Academy of Pediatrics actually listened to thousands of parents of children who developed autism after receiving immunizations while sick, no one would ever give vaccines at a time when a child or teen was sick, was showing signs of illness or was just recovering from an illness.
In Summary: When I was in college, I vividly recall a conversation that took place around our very Irish Catholic dinner table. At this particular family gathering, my uncle, a priest, was visiting. When I pronounced, that after 17 years of Catholic school, I had some serious questions regarding the infallibility of the Pope; my uncle turned to me and said “if you question this basic tenet of the church, you will be excommunicated!” Excommunicated…. Really…for questioning something that seems so unreasonable? “Absolutely and unequivocally” he said.
We now live in a time when vaccines have become the Holy Grail of the pharmaceutically- dominated medical system, and the belief that they are the only safe and effective method for eradicating disease is a basic tenet of this system. Those of us in the nursing and medical profession who challenge these beliefs are considered by some to be heretics. However, with insufficient safety data and reports of mild, severe and even fatal adverse reactions, challenge we must. It is our moral obligation to question why we are subjecting 11-year-old girls and boys to a vaccine for an infection that 90% of the time clears on its own and for which the idea that the benefits outweigh the risks remains uncertain
In closing I would to thank my colleague, friend and renowned physician Stuart Freedenfeld, MD for lending his perspective on this often fear-infused and confusing topic: “Cervical cancer is a disease that takes the life of perhaps 3 women out of every 10,000 women in this country. In my medical training I was taught that cervical cancer death is completely preventable with yearly Pap smears. Over time we discovered that Pap screening as infrequently as every 3 years would be just as effective in preventing death from this disease. The vast majority of women who succumb to cervical cancer are women who do not get screened or are immune deficient such as those suffering with advanced HI. To now take that reality and scare the American public, and more specifically the American children, into unwarranted fear about developing cancer if they do not rush off and get this set of vaccines is an outrage and an affront to our collective responsibility to those children.
I have always been particularly uneasy about injecting DNA virus material into our bodies but when that DNA is combined with 225 mcg of aluminum, the safety of which has never been tested in humans, and 50 mcg of polysorbate 80, then I have very serious concerns about the safety of this substance that we are proposing to inject into a child to protect against a disease that they almost certainly would never be harmed by.”
1. Jemal A, Siegel R, Ward E et al. Cancer statistics, 2007. CA Cancer J Clin. 2007; 57:43-66.
2. Markowitz LE, Dunne EF, Saraiya M etal. Quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine: recommendations of the AdvisoryCommittee on Immunization Practices(ACIP). MMWR Recomm Rep. 2007;56(RR-2):1-24.
Franco EL, Villa LL, Sobrinho JP et al. Epidemiology of acquisition and clearance of cervical human papillomavirus infection in women from a high-risk area for cervical cancer. J Infect Dis. 1999;
3. Walboomers JM, Jacobs M, Manos MMet al. Human papillomavirus is a necessary cause of invasive cervical cancer worldwide. J Pathol. 1999; 189:12-9.
4. Saslow D, Castle PE, Cox JT et al. American Cancer Society Guideline for Human Papillomavirus (HP) Vaccine Use to Prevent Cervical Cancer and Its Precursors. CA Cancer J Clin. 2007; 57:7-28.
British Journal of Cancer (2006) 95, 1459–1466. doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6603469 www.bjcancer.com
Published online 21 November 2006
N Engl J Med, Quadrivalent Vaccine against Human Papilloma virus to Prevent Anogenital Diseases
N England J Medicine, Efficacy of Quadrivalent HPVaccine against HPInfection and Disease in Males, Anna R. Giuliano, Ph.D et al, , Feb 2011
The Greater Good Movie
Maureen McDonnell has been a registered nurse for 34 years (in the fields of: childbirth education, labor and delivery, clinical nutrition, and pediatrics.) She is the former national coordinator of the Defeat Autism Now! Conferences and is the co-founder of Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet. Her published articles on autism and health can be found at sokhop.com. In addition to writing a monthly column Common Sense Approaches to Women’ Health., she is the owner of Nutritionist’s Choice multi vitamin: www. NutritionistsChoice.com. Presently Maureen is the Medical Coordinator for the Imus Ranch for Kids with Cancer. She and her husband H Hanson have five grandkids and feel blessed to be living in the beautiful mountains of WNC
By: Anne C. Willis
After thirty years of practicing clinical skincare I decided to go on a journey to explore the meaning of wellness and how that pertained to skincare. I traveled to Germany, Thailand, and India, but—unlike Elizabeth Gilbert whose journey was to Eat, Pray, Love—I was in search for the truth about safe and effective skincare products.
My travels spanned more than a five-year period after which, as part of my own transformation, I moved here to Asheville, NC. I compiled all that I learned through my herbal studies and my travels abroad—and realized skincare formulas needed to be changed. Part of this change would be to formulate products that would include pure plant material that would address current skin care challenges and would be safe for skin and body health.
A return to traditional plant medicine is on the rise, and this includes skin care. There are many astounding studies on the medicinal application of plants and their ability to prompt the body to produce what is necessary for repair and survival. After three decades in skincare I have seen many changes to the industry, but none as profound as we are currently going through. Skin conditions that once were defined as rare are now the “New Normal”.
I have lived through trends like petroleum-based moisturizers, apricot kernel scrubs, buff puffs, alcohol toners, and the current craze, Retin-A, and skin resurfacing treatments. My original clients were big fans of pancake makeup and Abolene cold cream. We have gone from shielding the skin to overexposure.
The focus of traditional formulas was to make people “look better” and was based on a 50s mindset where everyone got swept up in better living through chemistry and forgot to consider human health issues.
These formulas used botanicals, but not raw plant material. This is where part of the confusion comes in. Most personal care products that say they contain botanicals actually use cosmetic-grade herbal extracts. The herbs are compounded and extracted with synthetic ingredients, such as alcohol or propylene glycol. These synthetic ingredients cripple the potency of herbs. So the real changes you see with the skin are minimal and you run the risk of exposing yourself to ingredients that can impact your overall health.
Though contemporary skin care formulas offer clients convenience and immediate results, they do not work in harmony with the complex biochemistry of the skin that initiates repair on a cellular level. I believe people are challenged with health issues that are directly linked to harmful ingredients found in personal care products. The knowledge I gathered during my international travels helped me in the development of skincare using green technology. This is vital as we seek solutions for aging effects, oxidative stress, and skin cancers.
The average woman applies 165 ingredients to their skin everyday. Men average 85. Children get slathered with about 65 (and if you include sunscreens and blocks it is more). Out of all of these ingredients most are synthetics. The following are only a few of the isolated ingredients that should be avoided.
Mineral oil may also go by the names liquid paraffin, paraffin wax, and petrolatum on the product label. Mineral oil, once applied, prevents the skin from “breathing.” As such, it clogs pores, interferes with your skin’s natural ability to eliminate toxins, and can lead to acne flare-ups. It is irritating to the skin and can cause chapping and dryness.
Propylene glycol may cause dermatitis, kidney or liver abnormalities, and inhibit skin cell growth.
Phenol carbolic acid can cause circulatory collapse, paralysis, convulsions, coma, and even death from respiratory failure .
Acrylamide is linked to mammary tumors in lab research.
Sodium laurel/lauryl sulfate (SLS), and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are substances that break down the skin’s moisture barrier, allow other chemicals to easily penetrate the skin, and can become a “nitrosamine”—a potent cause of cancer.
Toluene, butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), benzoic and benzyl are linked to anemia, lowered bloodcell count, liver or kidney damage, and may affect a developing fetus.
Taking a more holistic approach to skin care certainly makes sense, but is this something you can achieve by mixing up a few plants from your local harvest? I feel the best use of plants for home care is for emergencies like minor cuts, sunburns, and poison ivy. When it comes to skin conditions such as roseacea, hyper-pigmentation, pre-skin-cancers, acne, and sensitive skin, it best to leave that up to the experts. But if you want to be your own medical advocate in an emergency, here are a few recommendations.
The first requirement for any household is a first aid kit for a cut with minor bleeding. Though I say minor, recently my friend Jane had a knife stab the top of her foot—the blood that spewed out was off the charts. What was the first thing I grabbed? Cayenne pepper! By packing the cut with cayenne pepper the bleeding stopped within 30 seconds. The reason for this is that, rather than the blood pressure being centralized, it is equalized by the cayenne, and the clotting action of the blood becomes more rapid. Following the cayenne, I doused the wound with goldenseal. Goldenseal is valued because it is a strong antimicrobial, a mild anti-inflammatory, and has astringent properties. It is extremely useful for treating tissues that are inflamed, swollen, or infected. In addition, I made Jane a goldenseal tonic to take internally as a natural antibiotic. After insuring the wound was clean and disinfected, I went out into Jane’s amazing herbal garden and plucked some yarrow leaves. Making a poultice, I packed the wound with the moistened leaves and placed a secure gauze wrap around the foot. Yarrow exhibits antibiotic activity. It is an amazing herb externally for treating wounds and helps to stop the flow of blood as well as closing the wound edges. No emergency rooms were necessary and we achieved one hundred percent success in wound care. (This is not intended to treat or diagnose. Always seek medical advice in the case of a true medical emergency.)
I could be the poster child for Poison Ivy skin reactions. People have shared all kinds of natural remedies, such as clay, jewelweed, and oats. Although they provide temporary relief, none of these have worked for me. The only sure thing has been Octagon soap. An old-time cleansing bar put out by Colgate, I have found it to be a sure thing. I make a rich lather, apply the foam to cover the effected area and leave to dry. I do this at least three times a day. I wish I could say that I grab a magic plant from the local harvest, but none has worked for me .
Summer is the time of year for sunburns. Not only are they extremely painful, but can eventually lead to skin cancer. The 911 for bad sunburns are buttermilk or Greek yogurt. The nutrients in these items aid in repair of damaged skin. The fat content soothes the burn and the probiotics return good bacteria to the skin, thereby preventing skin blistering and breakout. Traditionally aloe has been a number one choice for sunburns, but because the ointment from the leaves locks in infection, it is not my number one choice—especially if skin has blistered.
As research yields astounding studies that expand our understanding of medicinal plants, we find ourselves at a unique crossroads between the applications of traditional versus conventional therapies. My own clinical experience has shown over and over again that raw plant material provides amazing results for even the most challenging skin conditions. My goal, as we set the foundation for new skincare formulas and solutions, is to consider the whole body and the intricate wisdom of plants.
~Anne Willis; email@example.com